This may be the easiest book review I have ever done. Why?
Because my target audience is made up of science fiction fans of the year 2012. They may not initially think of Rudyard Kipling as a father of SciFi. But when they are told that he is indeed such by the likes of Poul Anderson, David Drake, Sandra Miesel, John Brunner and others, most of my work is done. Then comes icing on the cake: not only does each author sing the praises of Kipling in a separate essay, he or she then contributes one, two or three SciFi stories of his/her own, sometimes in conscious imitation of the Master.
I could stop writing here, could I not? Don't you already have enough material to let you decide whether you want to read HEADS TO THE STORM: A TRIBUTE TO RUDYARD KIPLING, edited by David Drake and Sandra Miesel?
No? You need more? Sigh.
All right, here goes.
In 1989 SciFi writers David Drake and Sandra Miesel gathered material from many of their active colleagues for a tribute to Rudard Kipling (1865 -1936). Were Kipling still alive in 1989, such a laudatory collection Germans might have called a Festschrift, especially if it celebrated Kipling's 70th or later birthday.
But wait, in the same year Miesel and Drake published a second volume: A SEPARATE STAR: A SCIENCE FICTION TRIBUTE TO RUDYARD KIPLING. Both books have the same jammed format and some overlapping authors. My guess is that Drake and Miesel originally planned only one volume but received enough material from contributors for two.
Today, I will say just a few words about HEADS TO THE STORM. It contains fifteen stories by late 20th century science fictioneers, each preceded by an individual "Introduction" in which Poul Anderson or Anne McCaffrey or another writer tells what Kipling means to him or her.
I myself read this book because I plan to teach an adult education course on "Young Rudyard Kipling" in October-November 2012 and HEADS TO THE STORM is rich in analysis and praise of 1907 Nobel Prize winner Kipling as yarn spinner, fantasist, poet, plot constructor and also as inspiration and model to later writers.
SciFi fans will enjoy HEADS TO THE STORM for the more up to date tales by today's masters. But if they read to the end, they will also discover two much earlier Kipling short stories, "They" (1904) and "The Eye of Allah" (1926).
"They" will take you into the sad private life of Kipling, who lost two children tragically. A blind rich woman near Kipling's home in Sussex is visited by the souls of children of the neighborhood who die young and stay to comfort her for a few months before moving on.
In "The Eye of Allah," early English scientist and monk Roger Bacon, an Abbot and a poet decide what to do about the Arab discovery of the microscope (centuries before it really happened). Watching all the tiny corpuscles in a dirty drop of water, they worry what this will do to the faith of millions of simple Christians. This theme of how to handle new discoveries remains topical. Today we worry about whether we have discovered nuclear energy before we know how best to handle it: ditto human cloning, abortion, iPHONES and more.
All the contemporary SciFi stories and a poem or two in the collection are more than just good. Many clearly remind of Kipling's fascination with machines and man's mastery of them, of the weird and the supernatural. One or two are specifically modeled upon Kipling.
Let my favorite, Poul Anderson's "The Visitor" stand in for all the rest. It is about telepathy and reaching across time and space in sympathy. It reminds of Kipling's "Wireless," in which a young man reaches unconsciously back in time and finds John Keats' composing and editing one of his greatest poems.
As a sample of the praise showered on Kipling consider this by John Brunner who sees Rudyard Kipling as "possibly the most completely equipped writer ever to tackle the short-story form in the English language. ... he was a master as making the fantastic seem credible. ... one in six of his published short stories were science fiction or fantasy."
Surely, this is enough, dear SciFi-ers, to make you decide whether to read HEADS TO THE STORM: A TRIBUTE TO RUDYARD KIPLING or, perhaps, it may induce you at least to google for more information.
What did you think of this review?